FIS members pull out all the stops to get temporary hospitals up and running.

FIS members have risen to the challenge of building and opening 10 temporary critical care hospitals being set up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government and public health services began planning the creation of the hospitals to provide cover for the projected increase in patients likely to require treatment.

The first NHS Nightingale hospital, at London’s ExCeL centre, offi cially opened on 3 April, having taken less than a fortnight to establish, originally offering 500 beds.

The Birmingham NEC and Manchester Conference Centre have 3,000 beds between them, while other temporary hospitals were being established at Glasgow’s Scottish Events Campus (SEC), Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and Belfast City Hospital’s tower block.

At the time of SpecFinish going to press, Health Secretary Matt Hancock had just announced a further two planned facilities to open in Bristol and Harrogate which between them would have up to 1,500 beds.

‘Military precision’ Within hours of the Government’s announcement to turn London’s ExCeL into a temporary hospital, five FIS members – British Gypsum, Penlaw & Co, PWB Drylining & Interiors, Etag Fixings and Hadley Group – were pulling together to construct ward areas, ward entrance booths and corridors.

Dryliners from PWB Drylining & Interiors are amongst those working on site, while independent distributor of drywall materials, Penlaw & Co, stepped up to the challenge to supply all the materials required.

Penlaw & Co’s Supply Chain Director Paul Scott said: “This build is unlike anything we have witnessed, the logistics and planning that has gone into turning ExCeL into a hospital in just one week is beyond comprehension. The entire build is completely reliant on hundreds of suppliers providing materials at exactly the right time – the precision is military.”

Originally designed to accommodate just 500 beds, as the number of people affected by COVID-19 has ramped up, especially in London, the project quickly escalated to 4,000 beds, changing the dynamics of the build and the materials required to fulfil the job.

Paul said: “The original brief was to supply a bio-cleanable product to construct the main walls. As the announcement came that the Nightingale needed to accommodate a further 3,500 beds, within a few hours we completely switched supply to British Gypsum materials.”

British Gypsum’s National Trade Sales Director, Gordon Parnell, said it had been a great example of FIS members pulling together for the greater good. “In just 48 hours the scale of this build changed dramatically. With over 60 dryliners on site, they needed material quickly to get the job done. In normal circumstances this is a complex project but has been made possible by the collaborative nature of Penlaw & Co and our logistics team at our East Leake depot. If evidence was ever needed to demonstrate how the construction industry can pull together in a time of crisis, then this is surely it,” he said.

Etag Fixings and Hadley Group have also provided materials for the ExCeL hospital. Etag opened its store specifically to provide fixings for the job, having pledged to keep the supply chain open to the construction industry for as long as it conceivably could.

It recently tweeted: “Pulling together for everyone and willing to help in any way we can for any essential sites. Thank you to PWB Drylining and all other teams working on the construction of NHS Nightingale.”

Cold rollforming manufacturer Hadley also tweeted a photo of its lorry being unloaded at ExCeL London, stating: “We are delighted our products are being used in the construction of the NHS Nightingale Hospital. We’re grateful to be a part of such an outstanding, essential project, fighting against COVID-19.”

Another FIS member, Bryson, which imports, manufactures and distributes fixings, temporary protection and safety products, has provided support for the London, Birmingham and Manchester hospitals. Managing Director Daniel Reiner said it would continue to stay open for essential supplies including PPE, hygiene products and other much-needed materials with next day and same day delivery to help in the fight against COVID-19.

‘What a remarkable effort from everyone involved in getting the NHS Nightingale Hospital in London ExCel up and running in under two weeks. Bryson are pleased to have supported this project with fast delivery of much needed PPE and hygiene products to the contractors working on the project and we are actively involved in supporting the upcoming critical care field hospitals in Birmingham and Manchester,” he said.

“During this challenging time we are prioritising supply of PPE and hygiene products for the NHS and care providers throughout the UK and Europe to support the fight against the COVID-19 crisis.

Our message to our Bryson team and to everyone we work with and support is to stay positive, stay safe, and remember we are all in this together.”

Sound Interiors is working on the Deeside facility. Commercial Director Graham Flynn said: “We started Tuesday morning and completed the sports hall last night. We are now in what was a skate park, about the size of a football field. Then we move on to the ice rink. We have 30 men working round the clock and hope to finish by the end of next week.

Supporting the Louisa Jordan In Scotland, PFP is amongst those working to build and open the new NHS “Louisa Jordon” field hospital at Scottish Events Campus (SEC), Glasgow. The hospital is named after Scottish nurse Louisa Jordan, who died in service during the First World War. More than 400 contractors are working alongside nearly 150 NHS Scotland clinicians and operational staff to establish the new NHS Louisa Jordan.

Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has praised all staff who are working at the site to develop this new facility, saying: “They are working together, under exceptional circumstances, to deliver a clinically safe and fit-for-purpose hospital that, if required, will provide extra capacity for NHS Scotland.”

Building Heroes sign up to help FIS Approved Training Provider Building Heroes, which provides construction training for former services personnel is assisting with setting up the Nightingale hospitals in Newcastle and York. Building Heroes graduates are signed up to support the scheme.

Building Heroes’ Founder Brendan Williams said: “Sixteen of our Building Heroes graduates will be working on the Harrogate Nightingale. The skills they learned on our Foundation Programme, which incorporates the FIS BuildBack programme will have prepared them well.

Southern-based graduates have already been active at the ExCeL Nightingale. We at Building Heroes are humbled to assist our NHS in their hour of need.”

FIS Chief Executive Iain McIlwee said it was heart-warming to see the wider industry come together on the Nightingale projects. “We praise all those involved in this time of crisis to help defeat COVID-19 and ultimately save lives,” he said.